Final Up to date on September 20, 2022 by Nellie Huang
As soon as thought-about the middle of the world, Istanbul is likely one of the most fascinating cities on the earth. Right here’s a power-packed listing of issues to do in Istanbul by my good friend, Sean Lau from the Turkey Traveler.
Spanning throughout two completely different continents, Asia and Europe, Istanbul provides vacationers a novel expertise not like wherever else on the earth. It has a novel mix of Japanese and Western cultures, which will be seen in its structure, meals, and folks.
Istanbul is a metropolis of contrasts dwelling to attractive mosques, opulent palaces, and large bazaars. Lately, Turkey has risen to turn into one the most visited nations on the earth, and Istanbul – its crown jewel – is drawing in increasingly more vacationers with its mix of East-meets-West and old-meets-new.
With this Istanbul information, we hope you may get to expertise Istanbul greater than only a typical vacationer as a result of beneath the floor of Istanbul is a world of historical past and wonders ready to be found!
Greatest Issues to Do in Istanbul, Turkey
1. Go to the Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is a former Christian cathedral that was transformed right into a mosque within the fifteenth century. Constructed within the early sixth century by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, it served because the imperial palace chapel for hundreds of years, and later as a mosque after the town fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. It’s now an energetic mosque and one of many metropolis’s hottest vacationer sights.
The Hagia Sophia is taken into account one of many nice architectural wonders of the world. Its large dome, measuring 33 meters in diameter, was the most important on the earth for a whole lot of years. The constructing’s inside is embellished with marble columns, mosaics, and complex Islamic calligraphy.
2. Expertise the Blue Mosque
Constructed within the early 1600s by the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I, the Blue Mosque is likely one of the most well-known landmarks in Istanbul. At first look, you would possibly marvel why the Blue Mosque is called as such. None of its exteriors may be very blue.
Nevertheless, when you enter, you’ll perceive the origin of the identify. The Blue Mosque is embellished with lovely blue İznik tiles. Greater than 20,000 of those hand-painted ceramic tiles cowl the inside partitions, giving the mosque its identify and making it one of the lovely locations in Istanbul.
The Blue Mosque can be notable for its six minarets, which solely probably the most sacred mosque in Islamic tradition had on the time. It’s believed that there was a misunderstanding between the architect and Sultan Ahmed I when establishing the mosque.
The sultan resolved this by including a seventh minaret to the mosque in Mecca, which was the one mosque with six minarets on the time.
3. See the Hippodrome
Just some ft away from the Blue Mosque stands the Hippodrome of Constantinople (Constantinopole was the identify of historical Istanbul). The place the Sultanahmet Sq. stands in the present day was once a public enviornment primarily for chariot races, seating as much as 100,000 spectators.
All through the Byzantine interval, the Hippodrome was the centre of the town’s social life. The traditional stadium was stuffed with statues of gods, emperors, animals, and heroes. Immediately, solely the Egyptian obelisk nonetheless stands in the present day, together with a sculpture of three-headed serpents. Should you’re inquisitive about studying extra about this neighborhood and its historical past, we suggest taking a guided tour of the Hippodrome.
4. Get Misplaced within the Grand Bazaar
Grand Bazaar is a consumer’s paradise and a cultural icon of Istanbul. It’s one of many oldest and largest coated markets on the earth, relationship again to the fifteenth century.
The bazaar was initially constructed as a manner to offer monetary assets for the Hagia Sophia. Over time, it developed right into a bustling market the place retailers from all around the world promote their merchandise.
Grand Bazaar is value visiting for its historical past, structure, and retailers. The bazaar is a labyrinth of slender corridors and passageways, lined with retailers promoting souvenirs, handicrafts, jewellery, Turkish carpets, and lamps. It’s an important place to buy a Turkish memento to recollect your journey, however simply keep in mind to haggle otherwise you’ll be ripped off!
5. Absorb the Odor within the Spice Bazaar
Located only a quick stroll from Grand Bazaar is one other certainly one of Istanbul’s most well-known locations to go to. The Spice Bazaar, because the identify suggests, is a coated market that makes a speciality of spices, teas, and herbs. As quickly as you enter the Spice Bazaar, the scent will overwhelm you.
Not like the Grand Bazaar which is very large, the Spice Bazaar is relatively small. It solely has two streets, and many of the merchandise offered listed here are comparable. If you’re out there for some spices, herbs, teas, or Turkish delight, that is the place to go.
Even should you’re not inquisitive about buying something, it’s nonetheless value visiting for the expertise and to soak up the sights and smells of this iconic Istanbul market.
6. Go Underground into the Basilica Cistern
The Basilica Cistern is certainly one of Istanbul’s most historic sights. It’s a giant underground chamber that was used as a water storage tank within the Byzantine period. The cistern was constructed below the Stoa Basilica, which was a significant middle of commerce, justice, and artwork between the third and 4th centuries. It is usually the place it obtained its identify.
The cistern is an eerie and engaging place. It’s dimly lit with flickering lights, and the sound of dripping water echoes by the chamber. The cistern is supported by 336 columns, lots of that are recycled from Roman temples.
Should you’re on the lookout for a novel expertise in Istanbul, make sure to add the Basilica Cistern to your Istanbul itinerary! E-book these tickets to skip the road!
7. Climb Galata Tower
Galata Tower is a medieval stone tower in Istanbul recognized for its historical past and views of the town. The tower was in-built 1348 by the Genoese and was the tallest constructing in Constantinople. It was used as a watchtower to observe the actions within the Golden Horn and Bosphorus Strait.
After the autumn of Constantinople, the Ottomans used the Galata Tower as a jail after which as a fireplace watch tower, till it was broken by a fireplace (the irony huh?). In reality, the tower has been broken many occasions over the centuries however has been restored a number of occasions. The present restoration was accomplished in 2020.
One of the vital iconic options of the Galata Tower is the 360-degree observatory deck, which sits over 50 meters excessive. From the deck, guests can see the Golden Horn, Bosphorus, Sultanahmet, and even the Asian facet on an excellent day.
8. Wander round Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace is a must-see for any historical past lover visiting Istanbul. It was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for practically 400 years and is stuffed with lovely structure and historic artifacts.
This Istanbul palace was constructed within the fifteenth century by Mehmed the Conqueror and has been renovated and expanded through the years. It’s now dwelling to a number of museums, together with the Imperial Treasury, which homes one of the spectacular arms collections. The palace can be surrounded by beautiful gardens that are value exploring.
However maybe probably the most fascinating a part of the Topkapi Palace is the Harem (or “forbidden place” in English), the residing quarters for the feminine members of the sultan’s household. The Harem was a secluded and opulent world unto itself, with its attractive mosaic-tiled chambers and personal gardens. Although there’s an additional entrance price to enter the Harem, it’s value each Turkish Lira!
9. Admire the Süleymaniye Mosque
Whereas the Blue Mosque is Istanbul’s most well-known mosque, the Süleymaniye temple has a extra dramatic setting and exquisite exterior than the Blue Mosque. The Süleymaniye mosque is situated on the third of Istanbul’s seven hills, which overlooks the Golden Horn. You’ll be able to see its gray domes and minarets poking excessive above the town’s skyline from afar.
It served as Sultan Suleyman I’s major mosque throughout Ottoman occasions and was constructed through the sixteenth century below Sultan Suleiman. Have in mind there are lengthy traces and lengthy wait, so e book your tickets upfront.
10. Stroll alongside Istiklal Road
No go to to Istanbul is full with out strolling down Istiklal Road, the town’s most well-known pedestrian-friendly road. Positioned within the Beyoglu district, Istiklal Road is stuffed with retailers, cafes, eating places, and historic websites.
The road dates again to the Ottoman Empire and was as soon as often known as the Grand Rue de Pera. It was renamed Istiklal Road (or “Independence Road”) after Turkey’s independence in 1923.
Within the daytime, Istiklal Road is bustling with locals and vacationers alike. At evening, the road comes alive with music, and folks of all ages benefit from the vigorous environment. It is likely one of the finest locations to benefit from the nightlife in Istanbul, as there are a number of nightclubs and bars within the space.
11. Take the Historic Tram
One of the vital iconic sights on Istiklal Road is the historic Istiklal tram. Formally often known as the Taksim-Tünel Nostalgia Tramway, this tram runs from Taksim Sq. (Istanbul’s transport hub) all the best way down Istiklal Road to Tunel Sq., servicing a complete of 1.64 km (1 mile).
This brilliant crimson tram has turn into an emblem of Istanbul, however though it’s a mode of public transportation, it’s nearly at all times sooner to simply stroll down Istiklal road. The tram makes many stops attributable to pedestrian site visitors.
12. Marvel the Largest Mosque in Turkey
On the subject of mosques in Istanbul, guests would possibly instantly consider Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque, however few will point out the Camlica Mosque. In reality, the Camlica Mosque is the greatest mosque in Turkey, a formidable achievement when the opposite mosques are already so massive.
Accomplished in 2019, the Camlica Mosque is certainly one of Istanbul’s latest and most fashionable mosques. The mosque is situated on the Asian facet of Istanbul, atop the hill often known as Çamlıca, which provides beautiful views of the town. The advanced additionally has a museum, artwork gallery, library, convention corridor, and underground car parking zone for 3,500 autos. It could possibly additionally accommodate round 63,000 worshippers.
Camlica Mosque is likely one of the finest locations to go to in Istanbul and but it’s a hidden gem!
13. Admire the Partitions of Constantinopole
The traditional partitions of Constantinople stood for hundreds of years earlier than they have been demolished within the nineteenth century. Because the Eighties, many areas of the previous metropolis partitions have been restored and opened to the general public. The tower on the Wall of Constantinople’s Wall is likely one of the most interesting vantage factors for seeing remnants.
This Byzantine tour takes you again in time to see Istanbul earlier than Ottoman invasion. You’ll undergo the town’s historical partitions and gates, in addition to different sights outdoors of Istanbul’s Outdated Metropolis.
14. Take a Turkish Tub
The Turkish tub is, indisputably, one of many quirkiest and funniest issues to do in Istanbul. It was the spotlight of our first journey to Turkey and an expertise I’ll always remember. Generally often known as hammam, the standard Turkish Tub is a quintessential a part of every day life for locals. However for foreigners, it may be a peculiar and amusing expertise.
First, you’ll have to be utterly bare in a hammam (most hammams are single-sex). Then put together to have strangers vigorously scrub you up and down with scorching sizzling, foamy water. They have a tendency proceed to therapeutic massage your personal physique with all of the power they’ve! It’s unusual, heavenly, and humorous suddenly. E-book your Turkish tub right here!
15. Eat Road Meals in Kadikoy
Kadikoy is certainly one of my favourite areas in Istanbul: it’s much less visited by vacationers and provides a extra native expertise. The Kadikoy market is dwelling to a few of the oldest eating places and institutions within the space. It’s road meals galore right here, and there are tons of kebab stalls and lahmacun stands right here.
Pattern a few of Istanbul’s hottest road meals together with midye dolma, kokoreç and crispy pide. Bear in mind to avoid wasting area in your abdomen to savour the syrupy goodness of certainly one of Istanbul’s oldest and most scrumptious baklavas. I like to recommend reserving a Kadikoy road meals tour with an area to grasp extra of Turkish culinary traditions.
16. Sip Turkish Espresso
Turkish Espresso has gained fairly a reputation for itself around the globe, for good motive. Istanbul is after all an important spot to attempt a few of the finest espresso in Turkey.
For a real Turkish espresso expertise, I like to recommend heading to Okkali Kahave the place you’ll be able to pattern a spread of blended coffees and flavors from round Turkey. Many cafes are concentrated alongside the streets Mim Kemal Öke and Atiye and so they serve a spread of native coffees and yummy Turkish sweets.
Issues to Do in Istanbul At Evening
17. Catch Sundown at Ortakoy
Within the night, head over to the district of Ortakoy. It’s a vigorous space centered on its waterfront sq., the place locals collect to hearken to impromptu concert events or sip tea on cafe terraces. Stands serving waffles or kumpir (stuffed baked potatoes) share busy alleys with memento stalls.
The ornate, light-filled Ortaköy Camii mosque sits on the water’s edge within the shadow of the Bosphorus Bridge. Catching sundown right here is undoubtedly among the best issues to do in Istanbul, particularly for photographers.
18. Go on a Bosphorus Cruise
Istanbul is a metropolis the place East meets West, and there’s no higher method to expertise this than by taking a cruise down the Bosphorus. This slender strait connects the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea and divides Istanbul into European and Asian sides.
From the cruise, you’ll be able to see a few of Istanbul’s most iconic sights, together with the Bosphorus Bridge, Maiden’s Tower, and Dolmabahce Palace. The cruise additionally provides nice views of Istanbul’s bustling waterfront neighborhoods, with their markets, mosques, and wood homes.
There are various Bosphorus cruises to select from: Some provide sundown cruises on yachts, whereas different Bosphorus dinner cruises embrace leisure comparable to the standard Turkish stomach dancing and whirling dervishes!
19. See the Whirling Dervishes
Turkey is well-known for the whirling dervish, clad head-to-toe in white and spinning expertly as if in a trance. However the dervish is far more than a visible spectacle, relationship again over 700 years as a part of Sufism and the Mevlevi Order.
In Istanbul’s Hodjapasha theater, you’ll be able to watch the magical ritual of the Mevlevi Order, whose whirling dance has been declared a UNESCO Heritage of Humanity. The Sema ceremony is a journey by man’s religious ascent to “perfection” by thoughts and love—a really unmissable and astonishing expertise of music and strikes. E-book your tickets right here.
Issues to Do Close to Istanbul
20. Take a Ferry to Princes’ Islands (Adalar)
Prince’ Islands are a set of 9 small islands situated within the Sea of Marmara, simply south of Istanbul. The islands are a preferred day journey vacation spot for guests to Istanbul, as they provide a quiet and peaceable escape from the town.
The preferred method to get to the Princes’ Islands is by ferry. Ferries depart from a number of factors in Istanbul, together with Eminönü and Kabataş. The journey takes about an hour, and ferries run ceaselessly all through the day.
Although there are 9 islands within the Adalar archipelago, solely 4 are usually visited by vacationers. The largest is Buyukada, which is dwelling to historic mansions. The island has a ban on all fuel-driven autos, serving to to maintain the peace and the air high quality clear. A number of the hottest issues to do there embrace climbing its trails, going swimming on certainly one of its seashores, and simply strolling round city and admiring the attractive buildings!
21. Discover the Metropolis of Bursa
Should you’re seeking to discover extra of Turkey’s historical past and tradition, take into account taking a day journey from Istanbul to Bursa. Positioned about 2 hours south of Istanbul, Bursa was as soon as the most important middle of the silk commerce within the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. It was additionally the capital of the Ottoman Empire earlier than they took over Constantinople.
Immediately, it’s a preferred vacationer vacation spot due to its well-preserved historic websites and Ottoman structure. Town’s major attraction is the Uludag Nationwide Park, which is dwelling to ski resorts, thermal baths, and climbing trails. However should you don’t have time to discover the park, there are many fashionable websites in Bursa.
The Inexperienced Mosque is likely one of the metropolis’s most iconic buildings, and its identify refers back to the coloration of its inside tiles. The Bursa Grand Mosque is one other must-see, because it’s one of many largest mosques in Turkey. For a style of Ottoman structure, make sure to go to the Emir Sultan Mosque. And eventually, no journey to Bursa could be full and not using a go to to the Silk Market!
22. Go to the WWI Battlefields of Gallipolli
Historical past buffs alert! The infamous WWI battlefields of Gallipolli are situated round 3 hours from Istanbul, which is a bit of far for a day journey (I like to recommend staying in a single day). Positioned on a peninsula proper between the Aegean Sea and the Dardanelles straits, Gallipolli witnessed one of many greatest bloodbaths in historical past. Over half one million troopers perished right here and now you can pay your respects to the fallen ones.
Gallipolli isn’t just a big a part of European and World Conflict I historical past but additionally a big a part of Turkey’s modern-day historical past. This guided Gallipolli tour will carry you to the the ANZAC Cove, the place the troops first landed, go to the ANZAC Commemorative Website, and study concerning the battle from each views as you view the Allied and Turkish trenches at Johnston’s Jolly.
Istanbul Journey Information
How To Get To Istanbul
There are two energetic airports in Istanbul: the brand new Istanbul Worldwide Airport (IST) and the Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW).
Istanbul Worldwide Airport (IST) is the town’s main airport and one of many busiest airports in Europe. It’s situated about 40km (25 miles) outdoors of Sultanahmet (the historic middle) . Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) is Istanbul’s second airport and is situated on the Asian facet of the town in Pendik, about 44km (27 miles) from Istanbul’s historic middle.
Most worldwide guests will fly into Istanbul Worldwide Airport (IST), because it has a a lot wider number of flights from around the globe. You may get flights from New York to Istanbul as little as $500 round-trip and London to Istanbul for simply $150 return.
When you arrive at one of many airports in Istanbul, you’ll discover loads of choices to get to the town middle. For price range vacationers, you’ll be able to take one of many IETT public buses, HAVAIST or HAVABUS. Alternatively, should you don’t thoughts spending a bit extra, there’s Uber in Istanbul, and you may name one immediately from the airport.
Methods to Get Round Istanbul
Public transportation in Istanbul may be very environment friendly and may get you to most locations you must go. Town has an expansive metro, bus, and tram system that may take guests just about wherever they need. There’s additionally the ferry system, which might transport passengers throughout the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.
For the general public transportation system, you’ll must get your self an Istanbulkart, which is a chargeable contactless card that can be utilized on all the metropolis’s public transportation. You should purchase these playing cards at any metro station, bus station, or tram cease.
However maybe the easiest way to get round Istanbul is on foot. Town has loads of slender alleys, bazaars, and different indoor sights that you would be able to solely entry on foot. Apart from, there are such a lot of issues to see in Istanbul that just about each road is stuffed with one thing attention-grabbing.
The place To Keep In Istanbul
Indisputably, one of the best neighborhood to remain in Istanbul is Sultanahmet, or the historic middle. This space is dwelling to a few of the most iconic landmarks in Istanbul, such because the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Basilica Cistern. To not point out, there are many eating places and cafes within the space.
Finances: Cheers Classic Hostel
If you’re on the lookout for a price range place to remain in Istanbul, Cheers Classic is my favourite possibility. This hostel is located in Sultanahmet, simply minutes away from the well-known Blue Mosque. Probably the most excellent characteristic of this hostel is its charming classic decor. Apart from comfy dormitory-style rooms, friends can get pleasure from a stunning view of the Bosphorus Strait from the balcony! Test charges right here.
Mid Vary: Kaftan Lodge
If you’re on the lookout for an reasonably priced lodge with good worth for cash, I extremely suggest the Kaftan Lodge. This lodging is located in Sultanahmet, so guests are inside strolling distance of all the primary sights. The rooms are comfy and spacious, however maybe its finest characteristic is the large eating space the place a tremendous breakfast buffet is served each morning. Check charges right here.
Luxurious: Magnaura Palace Lodge
Magnaura Palace Lodge is arguably among the best luxurious accommodations in Istanbul (pictured). Located in Sultanahmet, its cozy rooms provide panoramic views of the town’s lovely mosques. Most rooms even have a balcony, the place you’ll be able to snap the proper photograph to your Instagram! The inside is embellished with conventional Turkish textiles, making your keep on this lodge a novel expertise! Test charges right here.
The place To Eat In Istanbul
There are many wonderful eating places in Istanbul and guests are by no means going to expire of choices. Listed below are a few of the locations we like.
Mivan Restaurant & Cafe
If you’re on the lookout for a stylish restaurant to attempt some Turkish delicacies in fashion, then Mivan Restaurant & Cafe is the proper place to go. Positioned within the Sultanahmet district, this restaurant serves all kinds of dishes comparable to kebabs, meze, casseroles, and extra.
The meat dishes are a few of the most flavorful and freshest you’ll discover in Istanbul. The service can be nice, and the workers is more than pleased that will help you select the proper dish. E-book a desk right here!
Fish Dwelling Ahhir Kapi Restaurant
Istanbul is surrounded by water, so naturally, it has a few of the finest seafood on the earth. The most effective locations to pattern a few of it in Sultanahmet is Fish Dwelling Ahhir Kapi Restaurant.
They’ve a variety of seafood dishes, together with grilled fish, calamari, oysters, mussels, and extra. If you’re undecided what to get, the ocean bass is a must-try in Istanbul. The very best half about this restaurant is the complimentary dessert! Reserve a desk right here!
Seven Hills Restaurant
If you’re on the lookout for a restaurant with a view of Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque, then head to Seven Hills Restaurant. This restaurant is situated on the highest ground of a lodge, so you’ll be able to get pleasure from beautiful views of the town when you eat.
The menu options Turkish and worldwide delicacies, and there are many vegetarian and vegan choices obtainable. Simply make sure to make a reservation upfront if you wish to get an excellent desk on the terrace. We suggest coming for sundown!
Price of Journey in Istanbul
Istanbul (and Turkey) was once one of the costly locations to go to on the earth. However the nation’s financial disaster has devalued the Turkish Lira a lot that it has turn into a preferred vacation spot even for price range vacationers.
Although that doesn’t imply that guests gained’t discover luxurious right here. There are many locations the place you’ll be able to splurge, comparable to a pleasant historic lodge, eating places with spectacular views, and extra.
However for price range vacationers, there are many methods to maintain your bills low. Easy issues comparable to staying in a hostel, consuming extra domestically, and taking public transportation can already prevent tons of cash.
For price range backpackers, it’s attainable to go to Istanbul on a every day price range of 35 to 40 USD!
Additional Studying on Turkey
I hope our complete Istanbul information has given you every little thing you must plan the proper journey to Istanbul! It’s certainly one of our favourite cities on the earth and we wish you to get pleasure from it as a lot as we did!
Should you’re seeking to learn extra on Turkey and different elements of the Center East, take a look at these articles:
Concerning the Writer: Sean Lau
Sean is the co-founder of The Turkey Traveler, the #1 journey weblog on all issues Turkey associated. Providing insider suggestions, suggestions, and guides, The Turkey Traveler is your final useful resource that will help you plan the proper journey to Turkey.
Disclaimer: This publish incorporates affiliate hyperlinks i.e. should you e book one thing by my hyperlink, I’ll earn a small fee at NO EXTRA COST to you. Thanks to your assist!
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